How NASA's Soil Moisture Satellite Works (Infographic)

Diagrams explain how NASA's SMAP satellite works.
SMAP, or "Soil Moisture Active Passive," will measure groundwater content and frozen/thawed state, all over the world every three days. (Image credit: By Karl Tate, Infographics Artist)

The satellite called SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) will measure land surface soil moisture content and whether the ground is frozen or thawed. Data is collected for the entire globe every two to three days.

SMAP’s lightweight mesh reflector rotates once every four seconds, gathering signals for the satellite’s onboard radar and radiometer instruments.

Soil moisture regulates plant growth and affects how heat is exchanged between the ground and the clouds in the atmosphere. The extremes of oversaturated ground and drought can be harmful to life on Earth. 

The water cycle describes the constant movement, driven by the energy of the sun, of water above, on and below the surface of the Earth. With the SMAP satellite’s data, researchers will gain insights into the state of water, and therefore life, around the world.

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Karl Tate contributor

Karl's association with goes back to 2000, when he was hired to produce interactive Flash graphics. From 2010 to 2016, Karl worked as an infographics specialist across all editorial properties of Purch (formerly known as TechMediaNetwork).  Before joining, Karl spent 11 years at the New York headquarters of The Associated Press, creating news graphics for use around the world in newspapers and on the web.  He has a degree in graphic design from Louisiana State University and now works as a freelance graphic designer in New York City.